Baguio, Benguet bear brunt of typhoon’s fury
BAGUIO CITY — Images of floods submerging the summer capital’s business and residential districts, and the strawberry fields in nearby La Trinidad, Benguet, greeted netizens on Saturday morning as they scanned their social media accounts.
Rainwater cascading from mountain roads emptied into downtown Baguio streets, leaving floodwaters as high as 3 feet at the intersection of Magsaysay, Abanao and Harrison Roads, near the public market and Burnham Park.
Narrow roads in hillside communities and those leading to the Loakan Airport turned into mini rivers. Residents in villages along creeks were on alert as heavy and continuous rains caused these waterways to swell as Typhoon “Ompong” (international name: Mangkhut) crossed northern Luzon on Friday night until Saturday morning.
“I had to avoid too many debris as I waded through flooded streets,” said a resident who went to the city’s business district to see the damage wrought by Ompong.
Too much rain
The rains were too much for the city’s drainage system, including the tunnels built by the American colonial government when it built Baguio in the early 1900s, according to Mayor Mauricio Domogan.
“It has been reported that the rainfall in Baguio may exceed that of Typhoon ‘Ondoy,’ which could reach up to 550.9 millimeters,” Domogan said, citing an Inquirer report.
Baguio also experienced heavy flooding in 2001 when Typhoon “Feria” battered the city, submerging downtown areas and sections of the public market. The floods were attributed to the old American drain tunnels, which were repaired and widened in 2002.
The only area that is frequently flooded in Baguio is City Camp, which is a natural catch basin for runoff rainwater.
Rains dumped by Ompong also triggered landslides in several areas in the city. Swirling winds toppled trees and electric posts, cutting off power supply in the city and nearby areas.
At 5 p.m. on Saturday, the city social welfare office reported four fatalities in landslides that hit the villages of Bakakeng Sur, Bakakeng Central and Camp 7 along Kennon Road.
Ompong’s rains also caused the Balili River to overflow, triggering floods that swept through La Trinidad’s strawberry farms, the town’s most popular attraction.
The river raged below a community along Kilometer 3, which has become a tourist draw after local artists painted houses in three subvillages there to simulate Brazil’s colorful “favela” murals.
A report from the Philippine Information Agency in the Cordillera, citing an advisory from the Department of Public Works and Highways, said the section of Marcos Highway at Badiwan in Tuba, Benguet, was closed to all types of vehicles on Saturday afternoon after fallen rocks blocked the road.
Kennon Road, a major link of Baguio City to the lowland provinces, remained closed on Saturday due to landslides along the 32-kilometer route. —Reports from Richard Balonglong and Vincent Cabreza
Click here for more weather related news.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.